Communication is reliably reported as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to strengthening and sustaining healthy relationships. As reported by the PBS program The Emotional Life:
“How couples behave when solving problems together or arguing can predict the character and success of their relationship. A raised eyebrow, a hand on the arm, or a greeting all may seem like small things, but research shows that the quality of everyday interactions can make or break a relationship.”
Similarly, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of roughly 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among recruiters. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most valuable when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication impacts almost every part of our lives. Attempting to improve our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we wish to make some positive changes.
How to become an effective communicator
Transforming into an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it will require some elementary skills and the willingness to practice.
A good place to start is to understand that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and acknowledged. This requires assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as significantly, requires strong listening skills.
In fact, listening skills may be the most vital component of communication. The reason is simple: if you cannot understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to articulate a relevant and significant response. This lack of ability to understand is the underlying cause of countless misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Developing listening skills, then, is the single most significant thing you can do to become a superior communicator. And while active listening is often challenging in its own right, hearing loss makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening necessitates devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by completely understanding the communication can you produce a relevant and substantial reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are nearly always preoccupied listeners.
But what produces the distraction?
Here are four common sources of distraction and how hearing loss has a tendency to make things worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you understand how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more likely to be focusing on on your personal thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to miss out on crucial non-verbal signals and to misinterpret what others are saying.
In terms of stress, hearing loss itself is a considerable source. You may become anxious about missing out on important ideas or coming up with embarrassing responses. And, the battle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of anxiety and strain itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal propensity to wander. You can’t both pay attention to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text message, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Staying inside of the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss creates a lack of focus because it takes you out of the present moment. If you’re attempting to figure out what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying right now. The continual catch-up almost ensures that you’ll never properly understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both lead you to misread the message. This presents the possibility of you becoming upset or annoyed with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.
This at minimum wastes time and in the worst case produces bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation of the person who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while communicating. You’ll probably also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re saying.
Hearing loss makes things worse, as you can imagine, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re continually requesting clarification on simple points, it makes it difficult to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
Becoming a better communicator requires becoming a better listener, but how can you become a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have several choices, but because hearing aids have come so far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they really are the perfect solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a host of fantastic features made especially for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have background noise suppression, directional microphones, and innovative digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without having to struggle to hear speech, you can focus all of your energy on understanding the message. Then, as you become a better active-listener, your confidence, assertiveness, and speaking skills will all take care of themselves.
If you have hearing loss and you’re ready to start strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.